Hearne attests to the quality of the flesh of the Northern deer: "I can affirm this from my own experience; for after living on it entirely, as it may be said, for twelve or eighteen months successively, I scarcely ever wished for a change of food; though when fish or fowl came in my way, it was very agreeable."
December 24, 1771
A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean in the Years 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772
Having dried as many fish and fish-roes as we could conveniently take with us, we once more packed up our stores, and, on the first day of December, set out, and continued our course to the South West, leaving Anaw'd Lake on the South West. Several of the Indians being out of order, we made but short days journies.
From the first to the thirteenth, we walked along a course of small lakes, joined to each other by small rivers, or creeks, that have communication with Anaw'd Lake.
In our way we caught daily a few fish by angling, and saw many beaver houses; but these were generally in so difficult a situation, and had so many stones in the composition of them, that the Indians killed but few, and that at a great expence of labour and tools.
On the thirteenth, one of the Indians killed two deer, which were the first that we had seen since the twentieth of October. So that during a period of near two months, we had lived on the dried meat that we had prepared at Point Lake, and a few fish; of which the latter was not very considerable in quantity, except what was caught at Anaw'd Lake. It is true, we also caught a few rabbits, and at times the wood-partridges were so plentiful, that the Indians killed considerable numbers of them with their bows and arrows; but the number of mouths was so great, that all which was caught from our leaving Point Lake, though if enumerated, they might appear very considerable, would not have afforded us all a bare subsistence; for though I and some others experienced no real want, yet there were many in our company who could scarcely be said to live, and would not have existed at all, had it not been for the dry meat we had with us.
-- Dec 24th 1771.
When we left the above-mentioned lakes we shaped a course more to the Southward, and on the twenty-fourth, arrived at the North side of the great Athapuscow Lake. In our way we saw many Indian deer, and beaver were very plentiful, many of which the Indians killed; but the days were so short, that the Sun only took a circuit of a few points of the compass above the horizon, and did not, at its greatest altitude, rise half-way up the trees. The brilliancy of the Aurora Borealis, however, and of the Stars, even without the assistance of the Moon, made some amends for that deficiency; for it was frequently so light all night, that I could see to read a very small print. The Indians make no difference between night and day when they are hunting of beaver; but those nocturnal lights are always found insufficient for the purpose of hunting deer or moose.
Indian deer (the only species found in those parts, except the moose) are so much larger than those which frequent the barren grounds to the North of Churchill River, that a small doe is equal in size to a Northern buck. The hair of the former is of a sandy red during the Winter; and their horns, though much stronger, are not so long and branchy as are those of the latter kind. Neither is the flesh of those deer so much esteemed by the Northern Indians, as that of the smaller kind, which inhabit the more Eastern and Northern parts of the country. Indeed, it must be allowed to be much coarser, and of a different flavour; inasmuch as the large Lincolnshire mutton differs from grass lamb. I must acknowledge, however, that I always thought it very good. This is that species of deer which are found so plentiful near York Fort and Severn River. They are also at times found in considerable numbers near Churchill River; and I have seen them killed as far North, near the sea-side, as Seal River: But the small Northern Indian deer are seldom known to cross Churchill River, except in some very extraordinary cold seasons, and when the Northern winds have prevailed much in the preceding fall; for those visits are always made in the Winter. But though I own that the flesh of the large Southern deer is very good, I must at the same time confess that the flesh of the small Northern deer, whether buck or doe, in their proper season, is by far more delicious and the finest I have ever eaten, either in this country or any other; and is of that peculiar quality, that it never cloys. I can affirm this from my own experience; for after living on it entirely, as it may be said, for twelve or eighteen months successively, I scarcely ever wished for a change of food; though when fish or fowl came in my way, it was very agreeable.